Khuan-Yu Hall, Contributing Photographer

In the annual Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services’ Run for Refugees on Sunday, Feb. 11, 3,152 people joined in the 5K race. Ahead of the race, pro-Palestine protesters calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza interrupted Rep. Rosa DeLauro, cutting her speech short.  

IRIS, a non-profit organization based in New Haven, has hosted the event annually to raise funds for its mission of supporting refugee resettlement and to raise awareness around the issue of refugee resettlement. IRIS raised $168,547, nearly 130 percent more than their fundraising goal. Starting this year, IRIS changed the name of the event from the “Run for Refugees” to include “All Immigrants.” On average, IRIS serves around 1,200 refugees and immigrants in New Haven. 

“It doesn’t matter what [government] papers you come with, we welcome you and we are going to try to help you as best as we can,” Executive Director of IRIS Maggie Salem said.

Before the race, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker spoke about the vital role immigrants and refugees play in building New Haven’s community. Elicker’s speech was followed by a speech from Rep. Rosa DeLauro.

At the start of DeLauro’s speech, she was interrupted by a group of pro-Palestine protesters who were standing alongside the finish line. Several of the protesters were holding Palestinian flags and calling for a ceasefire in the Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, in which — as of Feb. 11 — Israel has killed over 28,100 Palestinians since Hamas’ surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7, in which Hamas killed about 1,200 people in Israel.

“There was a group of people who pulled out loud speakerphones and started protesting about how Representative DeLauro had not acted on the Israel-Hamas War,” Steven Zhang ’25, who was running in the race, told the News. “It lasted for around six to seven minutes … eventually DeLauro ended up not finishing the speech, and the race coordinator signaled the start of the race.”

Before the race, someone or some group distributed flyers with anti-immigrant hate speech along the race course, according to Salem. Wilbur Cross High School track and rugby teams ran along the race course to pick up these flyers before the race started, Salem said. 

She added that Elicker and other participants who arrived early also helped to clean up the roads before the race started. 

“[IRIS] is really a community,” Salem said. “It is being at the hub of many villages in Connecticut and the nation to do something that is humane and right that is important.”

Participants had the option to choose an in-person 5K around the East Rock neighborhood or a virtual one. 

This year, 30 local organizations sponsored runners to participate in the 5k. 

Some residential colleges and Yale organizations – such as the Asian Network –  sponsored runners through a code that would allow runners to run for free.

“I joined the run because it was promoted in the Yale Club Running group chat,” Sophie Price ’25 said. “I was able to get a sponsorship from a residential college. I think it’s a good cause and a way for Yale students to support a New Haven event.”

For next year’s run, IRIS hopes to move more deliberately into the virtual space to reach out nationally, Salem said. 

IRIS has also been supporting Welcome Corps — a nationally recognized organization that supports refugees. Salem and her team are working on expanding IRIS nationally through Welcome Corps and said that they hope to extend the influence of the virtual 5k next year.

“I have been a participant of this race for the last eight years,” Zhang, who is from New Haven, said. “It’s a fun run for a good cause.”

Jake Jayworth won this year’s 5k with a time of 15:12.

Correction, Feb. 13: This article has been corrected to reflect that Jake Jayworth won the 2024 5k.